To Tan or Not to Tan

sunheart

Hi, Friends! It’s Brooke here. Do you remember those lazy days of lying out in the sun for hours on end, slowly sizzling your skin to a dusky bronze? Let me set the scene for you: Imagine a tall, pale girl living 300 miles from the nearest beach, trying to become golden brown while reading Nancy Drew and rocking out to the soundtrack of Top Gun in her backyard. This was bliss! Nothing induced a better sun coma than an occasional whiff of Coppertone SPF 4 (!), a generous spray of Sun-In all over my hair, and laying on my belly reading a book until I felt my skin literally burning or I began hallucinating from the heat or both. Then I would turn over and repeat. So young. So very, very dumb.

Thus began my early pursuit of the sun. I was not as relentless as some girls were in this pursuit. Really, I just dabbled during my free time. Nevertheless, I kind of looked forward to those inevitable sunburns—not only did they eventually turn into deep tans, but also I got to peel all that freaky dead skin! By the time I realized how bad tanning and especially sunburns were, most of the damage had been done. I wish I could go back and shake some sense into my younger self, but alas.

suntanning

To tan or not to tan? This is a loaded question. Everyone has passionate reasons why they do or don’t tan (or always use a tanning bed or only use a spray tan, etc.). I’m definitely a mellow, live-and-let-live kind of gal. I hate arguing, and I’m not into foisting my views on to others. Really, I’m pondering what beauty means to me when it comes to the golden kiss of the sun.

On one hand, I believe that everyone is beautiful in their own skin. We are all original and lovely without artifice, and perhaps we should be satisfied with that. So, if you are born a bronze beauty (and you want to be bronze), so much the better. And if you were born with pale skin, ideally you would embrace it, call it “porcelain,” and be done for the day. This idea of creamy, light skin was highly in vogue for much of history and throughout literature. Being a literary lass of lighter hue, I’ve often comforted myself with this idea over the years. But the situation becomes concerning when swimsuit season hits, and people fall all over themselves averting their eyes from the shining white beacon that is me.

combo

On the other hand, there’s just something magical about that sun-kissed glow. A good tan highlights the best parts of you, your muscles seem full and healthy, the little bit of pink dusted across your cheeks livens you up, and a few questionable inches seem to disappear inexplicably. Getting that glow seriously plays with your mind, whether you relax outside, lay in a tanning bed, or get sprayed. I can walk into my VersaSpa (sunless tanning booth) pale as a ghost, and 3 minutes later, I leave with a light coat that deepens into a sexy all-over golden brown by the next morning. And I absolutely feel happier, well-rested (this is an illusion, people), and like I’ve been on a tiny tropical vacation, minus the beach hair and stress relief. But at least it’s something. It’s no mystery why physique competitors endure the crazy perma-tan for their shows—their bodies look even more amazing and sculpted under all those lights with that deep bronze sheen. When you seen a well-tanned gal (before any unhealthy side effects have begun), doesn’t she just seem carefree and vibrant, like things are going well in her life? I often think that, even though we all know the harm that excessive tanning can bring.

sad sun

Excessive sun exposure causes damage that often appears only years later, which is the seducing part of all this glow-getting. At the time, you don’t see any negative effects, but they are still occurring. Sunshine emits UVA and UVB radiation, which affect your deep and superficial layers of skin, respectively. The melanocyte cells in your skin produce melanin, the dark pigment that protects your skin from more damage. But sometimes, the process goes awry and these cells mutate, increasing the risk of skin cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and the deadliest of the 3, melanoma. Setting these risks aside, too much sun can also cause premature aging of the skin, manifested by a leathery texture, wrinkles, sagging skin, and sunspots. UV rays can also damage the eyes, causing inflammation of the cornea, photoconjunctivitis, tumors in the eye, as well as chronic issues like cataracts. Also, if you love your tanning bed, make sure it’s disinfected properly between users. Turns out that insufficiently cleaned beds can harbor staph infections and sexually transmitted diseases—yikes! Who knew? Now we all do.

I’m a big fan of sunless tanning, and though there are a myriad number of do-it-yourself products available, I have the self-application skills of a moth. So, I eventually made my way to the Mystic Tan, and now I adore the VersaSpa (super easy, no furious toweling off before a brownie-colored streak dries down my armpit, and a (distressingly) small heater in the booth to warm the icy spray—but all in all, a win!). Also, between my visits, I touch up with their VersaTan Bronzing Spray, the absolute best home spray I’ve found, as well as a powder bronzer for my face. I don’t need to be the St. Tropez girl, I just want a little color.

VersaSpa Bronzer--this stuff is awesome!

VersaSpa Bronzer–this stuff is awesome!

Now that summer is almost here, I hope you revel (moderately) in the warm sunshine (for vitamin D synthesis and for happiness), protect yourself when enjoying those rays, and love the skin you’re in. You’re beautiful!! Have a great week! ~Brooke

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